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riding up the wrong path

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When Lily is eighteen, she cuts her hair and joins the army. The British Army.

The British Muggle Army.

Despite what the gossip papers say, she leaves her wand at home. She's not a complete idiot.

– –

Oh, right.

Maybe take a few steps back.

– –

Lily Luna Potter is the only child of Harry Potter to have a namesake that is alive. She grows up, she climbs trees, she gets dirt on her scratched knees, and Daddy tells her to be careful.

“But Mummy played Quidditch!”

“Just be careful, pumpkin. I wouldn't want you to hurt yourself. Promise?”

Contracts aren't binding at eight, but she says, “Promise,” anyway.

– –

A week later, she falls from a tree and breaks her arm.

– –

When the Sorting Hat is placed on her small head, it announces Hufflepuff.

Ten minutes later, remembering every time Dad and Uncle Ron said, “if you don't get Sorted into Gryffindor, I'll disown you,” Lily bursts into tears.

(Logically, Albus had been Sorted into Ravenclaw without being disowned, but logic doesn't mean much to an overexcited eleven year old.)

– –

Aunt Luna said once, “You were born restless.”

“Early?” Lily had asked, and Luna shrugged.

“You were bored. It happens. Wombs are very boring places once you get used to them. You have places you have to see.”

“...do you know what they are?”

Aunt Luna regarded her solemnly for a moment, and then took off her pink winged glasses. “No. But that's most of the fun. Do you want to find a clan of Shelliferous Drogodflikerous with me? They only come out at twilight.”

Aunt Luna is basically Lily's favourite person in the world.

– –

Lily joins the Quidditch team.

She's a natural, naturally, says everyone, ever. She's like her mum, she's like her dad.

She smiles and says thank you, and remains very confused why no one is interested in how much she practices.

– –

No, she's not going to cheer for Gryffindor. Does her tie look like a Gryffindor one?

She's a Hufflepuff, and every time people comment, she's just that much more glad of it.

No one said Hufflepuffs couldn't be contrary.

– –

In history class, she learns about her family. Mum and Dad, Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione, Grandmother Lily who had red hair and died defending her son.

Lily tugs her red hair and writes an essay on the only woman to be a main contributor of Potterwatch. Letitia Berreby is a distant cousin, but only in the way that everyone in the Wizarding World are distant cousins.

She can't treat her dad like he is history when he seems to be still living it.

– –

Lily sprains joints, she breaks bones – she loses the bones of her leg once, which made everyone comment on when her dad lost the bones of his arm – she gets hexed and cursed, and she never means to.

“Lily, be careful,”, her dad says in her head, and in letters, and in person.

“I'm just working hard,” she replies, but only in her head.

– –

She's a Beater on the Quidditch team, too.

Defend and attack, that's her, and she's bloody good at it, thanks. She doesn't need to be a Seeker to be a Potter.

Anyway, she's just as much a Weasley, but Weasleys never shine much next to Potters.

– –

Her hair loses its red.

It's not black, but it's not red, either. Just...brown. A very ordinary brown that lightens over summer and darkens over winter.

– –

When it comes time to discuss her future career, Lily confesses she has no idea.

Quidditch is suggested, and she agrees just to get out of the interview.

She loves Quidditch, but she doesn't actually want to make it her life. Besides, her mum was a professional Quidditch player, and Lily is trying to avoid following in anyone's footsteps. The trouble is, she has to make her life about something, otherwise....otherwise....

“I just don't want to spend the rest of my life doing a job in the Ministry just to pay the bills,” she tells Jasmine Parkinson, who is probably her best friend.

Jaz is Slytherin, the daughter of Pansy Parkinson, who was Slytherin, who used to hang out with Draco Malfoy, who is A Bully And Completely Rotten. Parkinson who got her whole House locked in the dungeon because she panicked due to an advancing army of Deatheaters, and Merlin, Lily wishes she didn't know all of that. It happened a quarter of a century ago. It has no relevance.

Jaz looks up from painting her toe-nails, frowning. “You're going to have to do something.”

“Maybe I'll just go exploring.”

“Lils, I'm serious. You need something to focus on, otherwise you are going to explode with anger and indecision.”

“...I'm not angry.”

“Right.”

“When am I angry, Parkinson?”

“Always?”

– –

There is a two page spread devoted to who is going to take her to the Yule Ball.

She asks Parkinson, and they look fabulous.

Boys. Who needs them when you have a best friend?

(The magazines aren't nearly as understanding, and Lily spends a lot of time putting them on fire. It's worth the detentions, because she's used to to it, but no one should say such things about her friends.)

– –

“You really are a Hufflepuff,” Dad sighs, later, but then Mum confirms that they both wrote letter upon letter of formal complaint.

– –

She doesn't put her name down for the Triwizard Tournament, and she really wishes people would stop acting so surprised.

A day later, she wishes she knew if everyone actually spends their time comparing her to her parents, who get compared to her grandparents, or if it is all in her head and she is doing all the comparing herself.

– –

Aunt Hermione teaches her how to drive.

Mum was never any good at it but Dad is too busy, which really means he's too tired.

But The Boy Who Lived can't have anything wrong with him, so nothing is ever said.

– –

Here's a secret that's not really a secret: Lily grew up with Muggle friends.

Here is another: she loves their books, their video-games, the way they create without magic, that their world seems so much bigger.

– –

“Lily, what do you want to do when you graduate Hogwarts?”

“Change everything.”

“Oh, so you want to follow in Granger's footsteps?”

Aunt Hermione is fierce, scary, and constantly tired. Laws take years to change; attitudes take decades. It's not that Lily is afraid of hard work, she's just terrified of throwing herself at walls to move nothing but brick-dust.

– –

This is what she hates: how the Muggles are viewed as They because they do not have wands.

The use of the word 'Muggle'.

Wizards and witches buy Muggle furniture, live in Muggle house, wear Muggle clothes, cheat their way through Muggle laws, laugh at how silly the poor little Muggles are.

How blind.

– –

“Are you sure you're not Hermione's daughter?” Dad jokes. “You're terribly obsessed with injustice.”

“Maybe I could be her apprentice,” Lily says, and doesn't really mean it.

“Maybe I'll ask,” Dad says, and he's teasing, but he does mean it.

– –

She's not good with books.

Aunt Hermione is a genius, but Lily isn't. She's clever enough, but her scores have never been spectacular.

Even if she wanted to, she can't follow her aunt into the complexities of Wizarding Law.

– –

Frances-next-door says, “I'm just shite with books stuff.”

“I hear you,” says Lily.

“So, I'm joining the Army, I think. It'd be a solid career, and I'd actually be doing something practical. Can you imagine me in a uni?”

“Can you imagine me in an office? Mum and Dad keep on pushing me.”

“Ugh. Hey!” Frank's eyes brighten and her teeth flash in a grin. “Why don't we sign up together?”

– –

...Why not?

– –

When Lily is eighteen, she cuts her hair and locks her wand in a box. She writes her a parents a letter, says goodbye to Lucy Ratticus her familiar, and slips out of the window.

It's all terribly dramatic, but hey, maybe she's a Potter after all.

– –

“I, Lily Luna Potter, solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King William V, his heirs and successors and that I will as in duty bound honestly and faithfully defend His Majesty, his heirs and successors in person, crown and dignity against all enemies and will observe and obey all orders of His Majesty, his heirs and successors and of the generals and officers set over me.”

– –

No one in her battalion gives a flying fuck who she is. Who her father is, who her mother is, what they did.

People only care because they like her, and when she shrugs them off with some half-lies, they nod, roll with it, take her out drinking because she's hardly the only one to not want to talk about home.

She still doesn't make many friends, but she'd die for everyone she works with.

– –

Look, she was a Beater, right?

Attack and defend.

None of the glory, just the hardwork of being in a team and doing a good job.

She'd say that she doesn't get what the big fuss is about, except that'd be disingenuous of her.

– –

“You don't know what war is like, Lily,” Dad says.

“No,” she agrees, “but it's a choice I'm making.”

– –

Her first deployment isn't war at all.

The Indian monsoon fails to arrive, and the country appeals to the international community for help. She hauls around bags of food, she guards trucks, she yells herself hoarse through a megaphone as her sweat turns the dust to sticky mud, she crawls into her tent and weeps.

It's the first time since bootcamp that she misses her wand. Magic. Magic could help-

Using magic would get her thrown in Azkaban, and then she couldn't help anyone.

– –

Lily gets shot in the Third Falklands War.

To be accurate, she gets shot twice. The first is a graze to her shoulder, but the second has her pressing a hand to her side and saying, “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.”

Magic could have fixed her in less then a minute, but the docs shoot her up with painkillers, so her furious rant turns incoherent, and then stops.

– –

At twenty-two, she can leave.

Sergeant Lily Potter, but she could leave, pick up her wand, put on some robes. Study dragons, send paperwork flying through the air, work in a shop, let her parents and brothers and family and the few wizarding friends who stuck around sleep easier at night.

She'd never have to be that tired and dirty ever again.

She'd never have to throw herself into the line of fire to protect someone else ever again. She could be safe.

– –

She stays.